For Leonard Fournette, the hard part was watching.
LSU’s star running back and Heisman Trophy favorite missed a week of practice after spraining his ankle Aug. 16. He attended drills while on the sideline, his left leg in a black walking boot from the knee down — and with a depressed look on his face.
That wasn’t how he hoped to spend the third week of preseason practice.
“I was just down (while) watching everybody practice,” the junior said. “Being one of the best players on the team, you want to be out there working hard with them. It was just different.”
Fournette is back now, five days before the No. 5 Tigers meet Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The running back said he has recovered fully from that ankle sprain and that he’s participating at full speed in practice. That was most reassuring news for LSU fans, revealed from the star’s first meeting with local reporters since preseason practice began a month ago.
In the first of his weekly press luncheons Monday, coach Les Miles announced unprompted that “there are no issues” with Fournette’s health. It came two weeks after the coach publicized the injury to a group of reporters following a 30-play scrimmage.
Fournette’s injury made national headlines. His return to practice, in a limited role, created more buzz last Thursday.
He’s back practicing “heavy,” not lightly, Fournette said Monday. He’s worlds better than the player who was writhing in pain on the turf just two weeks ago. That put a scare into everybody, even stopping the music at LSU’s practice. The Tigers often practice with music blaring to prepare for crowd noise.
“It was crazy,” Fournette said, smiling. “Everybody got quiet. The music stopped. It was a crazy moment.”
Linebacker Donnie Alexander yanked Fournette down from behind on a run up the middle, the running back said, grabbing a hold of his jersey and then falling on Fournette’s lower leg.
“It was nothing too serious,” Fournette said. “It happens in football. Football is risky.”
Did Alexander face repercussions from Fournette?
“I couldn’t do nothing to him at the moment,” Fournette said, laughing. “I was kind of mad at first, but at the end of the day, that’s my brother. ... It’s all love.”
LSU running back Leonard Fournette says he’s recovered fully from an ankle injury he suffere…
Fournette met with reporters for more than 15 minutes, five days before the start of what most assume will be his final season with the Tigers.
He playfully cracked on LSU’s two nose tackles, calling Travonte Valentine “fat” and saying Greg Gilmore sweats too much. He insisted that he will not be doing the "Lambeau Leap" after scoring a touchdown Saturday.
He said LSU’s defense — the one he practices against each day — has “more athletic, faster guys” than the one he’ll face Saturday, but he cautioned that the Badgers are a fundamentally sound group.
He lauded the skills of Wisconsin’s primary defensive standout, Vince Biegel, a redshirt junior whom website Pro Football Focus named the top returning outside linebacker in college football.
“They’re very fundamental,” Fournette said. “Their end, No. 47, he’s talented, man. It’s going to be an interesting matchup.”
The matchup could go a long way determining Fournette’s chase of history. He’s after, at least, five of Kevin Faulk’s career rushing marks, including yards (he needs 1,571), attempts per game (he needs 309 over 13 games), yards per game (he needs 1,245 over 13 games), rushing touchdowns (he needs 15) and 100-yard rushing games (he needs eight).
“I haven’t shattered everybody’s record,” Fournette said with a smile. “Kevin Faulk has a lot of records. My whole job is to be better than last year.”
He won’t even need that. He had 300 carries last season. That’s the only one of those five statistical marks he did not eclipse last season during a breakout sophomore year.
Records aside, Fournette’s just glad to be back practicing and out of that pesky boot. He’s done with a five-plus-day rehabilitation program he called “aggravating.” He needed to strengthen and work the muscles in his leg after a week off.
“It was kind of stiff,” he said.
Now it’s on to Wisconsin, the first step in a journey Fournette hopes ends with a trophy.
“You don’t know how many people look up to you and, by us winning (the national championship), you don’t know whose life you can change or somebody’s mindset you can change and do great things,” he said. “So many people look up to us. It’s crazy. It can be from older people to younger people. You never know who can you inspire.”